Archive for the ‘Nikki Giovanni’ Category

Somehow I Knew

Monday, April 30th, 2007

There are things we know that we don’t know we know. It’s called instinct, intuition, a hunch, gut feeling, or sixth sense. It’s a gift that God gives to each of us. With this gift, this intuition, people have been known to make split second decisions.

Tracie Dean drove 300 miles out of her way in January 2006 to follow up on a gut feeling she had about a little girl she happened upon at a convenience store. The little girl seemed frightened by the man in whose care she was the day Dean encountered them at an Alabama convenience store. The look on the child’s face staring up at Dean told the older woman that something wasn’t right. Luckily, Dean took down the man’s license plate number. Four days later and back home in Georgia, Dean was unable to find the girl’s picture on any of the missing children’s databases she located on the Internet. Dean then got in her car and drove three hundred miles back down to Alabama. She persuaded the convenience store owner to let her view the surveillance tapes of the day she met the little girl. While viewing the tapes a sheriff’s deputy walked into the store. Dean convinced him to view the tapes with her and to look into the matter. He did. Clues led the deputy to a mobile home in Alabama, where the horror story of extensive child abuse at the hand of a convicted sex offender began to disturbingly unfold.

Asked what made her drive back down to Alabama, Dean responded: “It was a God thing,” she said. “It was in my heart just to keep driving.”

Thoughtful Westerners look with contempt upon intuition, describing it as emotional, hysteria, unreasonable, or women’s foolishness. That brings to mind a woman in the bible whose instincts were dismissed. Based on a dream she’d had the night before Pilate’s wife sent a message to her husband warning him to look beyond appearances at the man who would be dragged into the governor’s court that day for sentencing (Matt. 27:19).

Each of us makes important behavioral predictions on our own all the time, without the help of experts. We make predictions about danger. “Should I chance it across the parking lot to my car this time of night?” “Can I trust this stranger?” Come to think about it, we have been studying people since we were infants, picking up clues from our environment on who feels right and who doesn’t, who we can trust and who we must go out of our way to avoid.

Poet and professor Nikki Giovanni had to threaten to quit in order to get her department to remove Cho Seung-Hui from a poetry class she was teaching there at Virginia Tech in 2005. His demeanor was menacing and his poetry was so disturbing that it became impossible to teach the class. “I’ve taught crazy people,” said Giovanni. “It was the meanness that bothered me. It was a really mean streak.” Then head of the department, Lucinda Roy, agreed to tutor Cho privately. But after a few sessions with him she grew scared and devised a “code word” she gave to an assistant so that if she felt threatened by the guy, the assistant knew to call the police.

Intuition is just listening. Listening for whispers from the soul.

Wailing is Heard at Virginia Tech

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

It’s being called the deadliest school attack in U.S. history. Plastered all over the news are pictures of prayer vigils on the campus of Virginia Tech Univeristy in Blacksburg, Va. in the wake of a shooting melee the other day that left 33 people dead. As a mother of a child who will be taking off for college in a few years and as someone who has spent the greater part of her adult life studying and teaching on college campuses the massacre at Virginia Tech leaves me speechless and frozen in fear. The mind’s first impulse is to protect itself when it is first confronted with tragic news. “This isn’t happening.” “This can’t be true.” “No, God, no.”
My heart breaks for every parent who lost a child to this massacre. As a teacher I know what it is to wonder at the close of the semester what more you could have done to reach that one student in class who seemed withdrawn and unreachable.

I force myself not to turn on CNN as I walk by going from one room to the next. I don’t want to gawk at other people’s grief.

When I finally did tune in yesterday I caughts bits of a memorial convocation taking place on the campus. “We keep expecting to wake up from this horrible nightmare,” said the university’s president. Various administrators took turns speaking. President Bush was on hand to bring words of comfort to the families, the community, indeed the nation. But poet Nikki Giovanni is the one who put it most poignantly, “No one deserves a tragedy.”

Still, the timing felt wrong to me. I understand the university’s need to reach out to its grieving community. “A memorial ceremony?” I wondered out loud. “Everyone dressed up in suits and heels one day after a campus massacre?” “It’s too soon,” I thought. Not yet. It’s not time for words. No speeches. No tributes. Not even poems. Nothing but wailing and grieving will do. Call for the weeping women. Let us cry just a little longer. Perhaps afterwards we will be able to see more clearly the tragedy all around us. “A cry is heard in Ramah - wailing, bitter weeping -Rachel weeping for her children. She refuses to be comforted for her children who are gone” (Jeremiah. 31:15).